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    Cross Pollination

    Blend BMW’s 2.0-litre turbo with an electric motor and you have a very fine 7 Series indeed. Take one technological marvel – the G12 7 Series – blend carefully with BMW i know-how and voilà, you have a hybrid Seven. Does it make sense for the UK buyer though? Words: Bob Harper. Photography: #Drive-My and BMW.

    There was a time when it might have been unthinkable to propose a 7 Series with a four-cylinder engine – the executive express is all about sublime wafty comfort after all and badging a model in the rangetopping series as, say, a 720d just isn’t going to cut it for the company chairman. Even with all today’s downsizing, where 12s are becoming eights and sixes are turning into fours and fours into threes, one did think that perhaps the 7 Series would be sacrosanct and stick with the largest engines possible…

    But that’s not the case and here we have the world’s first four-cylinder 7 Series: the 740e. It’s that last letter that gives the game away, though, as in BMW speak ‘e’ equates to added electrification, so not only do we have a four-cylinder petrol engine up front but this is backed-up by a synchronous electric motor and a 7.4kWh lithium-ion battery. Combined peak output is 326hp and 369lb ft of torque – surely more than enough for the chauffer room bragging rights. One might have a niggling doubt that when it’s in operation on its own that the four-pot petrol might not be man enough for the job but, as the most powerful incarnation of this engine, its 258hp and 295lb ft of torque should be more than enough to be getting one with, surely? Well, there’s only one way to find out…

    If you’ve not driven a Seven for a while it does take a little bit of familiarisation when you slip back behind the wheel – not that it’s difficult to drive or is particularly intimidating from behind the wheel, but if you’re to get the best from it you need to remember what all the buttons and switches do. And as I’m about to depart Hyde Park Corner in central London on my way to deepest darkest Oxfordshire I want to ensure I’ve got everything just so before doing battle with the tail end of rush hour. One has several modes to choose from with the hybrid Seven and while I could have asked it to run purely on electric power (Max eDrive) I tend to think it’s probably a little bit more of a real world test to opt for Auto eDrive.

    Nevertheless it’s on purely electric power that I waft away from our London rendezvous point and head off out of London along the A4. It’s a slightly odd experience, though, with the Seven being whisper quiet. The only tell tale that you’re under power being found in the dash pod as the speedo needle rises and the rev counter glows with various degrees of blue indicating that battery power is being used while the tacho needle itself stays resolutely on zero. This continues all the way to the outskirts of London when I finally awaken the petrol unit as I boot the big Seven away from the last set of lights before the M4 motorway begins. It’ll pick up its skirts and fly when required, too: 0-62mph in 5.4 seconds should be plenty fast enough for even the most demanding of company chairmen.

    Once onto the M4 there’s a chance to play with some of the settings and I discover that I’m not a huge fan of the Super Comfort setting for the suspension as it seems a little too wafty for my liking – the normal Comfort mode does just fine. I’ve now asked the engine to fully recharge the slightly depleted battery (Battery Control mode) as I want to experience eDrive on the motorway and after a few minutes I have a full battery and switch to Max eDrive and, if anything, it’s even odder flying down the M4 with a silent drivetrain. Eventually the engine will kick back in when the batteries are depleted or if you exceed 87mph.

    The pre-programmed route in the sat nav is soon advising me to pull off the M4 and I wend my way up towards our destination revelling in the combination of near silent running through the towns to showing surprising speed when both the battery and engine are playing together. The sat nav seems to be suggesting I’m only about ten miles from my destination so I pull off the road to take a few snaps, but mainly because I want to experience the ‘Executive Lounge’ option that’s fitted to this longwheelbase machine. Along with gesture control for the iDrive, the Executive Lounge was one of the other items that seemed to really capture the imagination when the latest Seven was launched. Essentially this option involves the front passenger seat moving forward, dipping its headrest, folding the back rest towards the front of the car and then electrically folding down a footrest for the rear seat passenger and as it’s only come on stream for RHD cars I’d not yet fully tried it out.

    Once I was parked-up I donned my best company chairman’s expression and plopped myself into the nearside rear seat and went to work on the buttons. Once I’d tried the massage function, the cooling function and watched a bit of telly I went for the full recline experience and it is slightly surreal to see the passenger seat gently moving away from you and folding itself down before the footrest electrically drops down for you. I have to say it’s remarkably comfortable and I’d be a very chuffed captain of industry indeed if my company car was equipped with this option! Apart from if I was paying for it that is, as the full Executive Lounge comes in at an eyewatering £6675, although there is a diet option at £1750 which just gets you the clever seat. I know which my shareholders would be happier with.

    Once I’m back behind the wheel I wend my way towards my destination only to discover that I’d been a bit of a cretin and that the distance to destination shown was actually just a waypoint en route and that I still have another 30 miles to go… and that I’m probably going to be late for lunch. Now, as we all know, captains of industry don’t like to be late for lunch so I delve into the Seven’s full performance envelope and hustle the big bruiser along increasingly small roads. It plays this role very well, although the nigh-on 50mpg I’d managed so far started heading south very quickly indeed.

    I did manage to make lunch by the skin of my teeth and reflected upon what has been an enthralling drive. There’s no doubt that the blend of BMW and BMW i technology really does work very well – the shift from battery to internal combustion to battery and internal combustion is utterly seamless.

    This might be an overused term but it perfectly describes the feeling when you’re driving the car – and the only clue that it’s happening at all is given by the instrumentation which undergoes subtle changes as the car works between modes.

    So, there must be some down sides, no? The first one is that the boot is smaller in the hybrid Seven than in the ‘normal’ car – 420 litres compared to 515 litres in a non-hybrid, but that’s still 25 litres more than you’d get in an S500e S-Class hybrid Mercedes. Then there’s the issue of the claimed 117.7mpg for the xDrive version of the 740Le. Put simply, you’ll never see this sort of economy unless you only ever do journeys of less than around 20 miles and have a charging station at either end of your journey. This isn’t really BMW’s fault, though. It’s the ridiculously old-hat testing procedure that all manufacturers have to put their cars through and BMW will happily admit that in real world conditions your economy will vary wildly. On pure eDrive it reckons you could return circa 188mpg if your journey is less than 20 miles. For a medium distance commuter travelling 30-40 miles to work BMW says the #PHEV-Seven will return between 55-70mpg but for long distance travel – trips over 150 miles – you’ll see 35-40mpg. So whether the 740e makes sense for you will really depend on the sort of driving you do.

    It’s also worth bearing in mind that the 740e is congestion charge-free and, when compared to a 740Ld xDrive, the 740Le xDrive would save a 40 percent taxpayer a hefty £5000 in benefit in kind. That’s a fair chunk of change in anyone’s book.

    With the arrival of the 740e BMW has also brought in a new trim structure for the 7 Series which now sees the introduction of a standard car, a tweak to the Exclusive model line and the M Sport remaining the pinnacle of the range. The standard trim level drops Comfort seats from the rear and the Pure Excellence exterior design package, while the Exclusive model gains Gesture Control, soft-close doors and the aforementioned Pure Excellence exterior kit. The amount of kit you get on this model is pretty impressive and knocks what comes as standard on the (more expensive) Mercedes S-Class 500e into touch by some measure.

    Overall I’ve been hugely impressed with the 740Le. I wasn’t exactly a doubting Thomas before I drove the car; it’s probably fair to say I was a little ambivalent but now I’ve got to grips with the car in UK conditions I can see it really would make a lot of sense for some people. If you spend the majority of your time in a major conurbation then it’s just about perfect – wafting along on pure eDrive while the world goes by is a great experience that seems to have a calming effect on you, but if you fly up and down the motorway all day every day then a diesel Seven is still the weapon of choice.

    TECHNICAL DATA #BMW-740Le-xDrive-iPerformance / #2017 / #BMW-740e-iPerformance / #BMW-740e / #BMW-740e-G11 / #BMW-740e-iPerformance-G11 / #BMW-G12 / #BMW / #BMW-740Le-iPerformance-G12 / #BMW-740Le-iPerformance / #BMW-G11 / #BMW-740Le-xDrive-iPerformance-G12 / #BMW-740Le-xDrive-G12 / #BMW-740Le-G12 / #BMW-7-Series / #BMW-7-Series-G11 / #BMW-7-Series-G12 / #BMW-7-Series-Hybrid / #BMW-7-Series-Hybrid-G12 /

    DRIVETRAIN: 2.0-litre turbocharged in-line four petrol with 88kW synchronous electric motor and 7.4kWh lithium-ion battery, eight-speed #Steptronic auto, fourwheel drive

    MAX POWER: Petrol: 258hp @ 5000-6500rpm; electric: 113hp @ 3170rpm; combined peak output: 326hp
    MAX TORQUE: Petrol: 295lb ft @ 1250-4800rpm; electric: 184lb ft at 0rpm; combined peak output: 369lb ft of torque
    TOP SPEED: 155mph (limited)
    0-62MPH: 5.4 seconds
    ECONOMY: 117.7mpg
    CO² EMISSIONS: 54g/km
    PRICE UK: 740e iPerformance from £68,330, 740Le #xDrive #iPerformance as tested from £74,880

    There’s no doubt that the blend of #BMW and #BMW-i-technology really does work very well.

    Once I’d tried the massage function, the cooling function and watched a bit of telly I went for the full recline experience.
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    Behind the Wheel.
    The 330e promises a game-changing drivetrain but does it live up to its potential?


    We’re used to the model designation of a 3 Series having nothing to do with the engine size, but what exactly is a 330e? It’s worth a closer look, that’s for sure… Words: Shane O’ Donoghue Pics: Max Earey.

    Remember the good old days, when a 330 was powered by a 3.0-litre straight-six petrol engine and a tweet was a noise a bird made? Well, they’re seemingly gone forever. The 330d may still use a 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine but the 330i uses a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder unit and now there’s the 330e. That little ‘e’ stands for electrification, but fear not: this isn’t the world’s first all-electric 3 Series. It is, in fact, a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), but we agree with whoever took the decision not to stick a ‘330phev’ badge on the boot…

    In fact, the boot badge is one of the only ways you’ll distinguish the hybrid from its 3 Series siblings. That and the vaguely ugly extra ‘fuel flap’ found on the left-front wing behind the wheel (it’s less obvious if you go for a darker paint colour). The 330e has exhaust pipes after all, and it can even be had in SE, Sport, Luxury and M Sport specifications to completely fool the neighbours. In short, this is not a hybrid for those that want to tell the world they’re driving a hybrid. That, we approve of.

    And indeed, if your idea of hybrid power is entrenched in the driving experience of older generations of the Toyota Prius, you’ll be in for a bit of a surprise in the 330e. This is, remember, the company that brought us the sublime BMW i8 sports car, which is itself a plug-in hybrid. Under the bonnet of the 330e, regardless of trim level, is a turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine. To the back of that is bolted a slick eight-speed automatic transmission with normal and Sport modes of operation (plus paddle-shifts as standard across the line-up). Within the casing of that gearbox is a compact electric motor-generator that adds 88hp to the engine’s output and produces 184lb ft of torque from a standstill. This takes its juice from a large lithium ion battery pack located at the rear of the car (robbing the boot of 110 litres, one of the few down sides), which can be charged in three hours by plugging it into the mains (or if you use a high-speed electric car charger, in just over two hours). The engine itself can top it up as well, depending on the driving mode selected, though obviously that uses fuel so it’s not the most efficient way to do things. Now the important numbers: the 330e has up to 252hp when the petrol engine and electric motor work together, plus 310lb ft of torque; the emissions rating is as low as 44g/km (depending on specification, but it’s never higher than 49g/km) for no annual motor tax bill; the official fuel economy figure is as high as 148.7mpg; and it will do 0-62mph in a hot hatch-baiting 6.1 seconds.

    It’s worth rereading those and then taking your time to compare the numbers produced by the top-selling 320d EfficientDynamics Sport fitted with the Sport automatic transmission: 163hp, 295lb ft of torque, 99 to 109g/km, 68.9 to 74.3mpg and 0-62mph in 8.0 seconds. That car costs £32,860 on-the-road, in comparison to £34,235 for the 330e Sport, which is a significant difference, even if the hybrid is much faster and, theoretically at least, more efficient. However, the 330e has an ace up its sleeve for company buyers and that’s a very low Benefit in Kind (BIK) rating of seven per cent. The 320d ED is better in that regard than any other diesel 3 Series, but at 20 per cent it makes the purchase price difference all but irrelevant.

    If you’ve read anything on hybrids, you’ll realise that one of those figures needs qualifying, and that’s the fuel economy. All the car makers have to put their vehicles through a standardised test procedure and quote the results from that, but it’s no longer fit for purpose so should be taken with a pinch of salt.

    Comparing the 320d to the 330e emphasises the test’s uselessness to the public. Taken at face value, you’d expect the petrol-electric hybrid 330e to use less than half the fuel of the conventionally diesel 320d and, if you drove in a manner that replicated the so-called ‘combined cycle’ test then it would indeed be that way. However, the battery in the 330e would have to be charged up from an external source beforehand while the overall test length would have to be short, on a flat road, with no wind or use of the air conditioning. We’ve driven considerably further in both the 330e and the 320d and once out on the open road at a cruise, the 320d returns economy much closer to its official figure than the 330e can hope to. Indeed, on a long motorway journey, a diesel 3 Series will always be more economical.

    The 330e fights back by being far quieter, it has decent electric-only running capability and actually works really well around town. If most of your driving isn’t on a free-flowing motorway and you can regularly charge-up the battery pack then the 330e may cost no more to run. We’d suggest you do the sums, as it’s a considerably more satisfying car to drive. Along with the more refined powertrain, it’s much faster at all times, effortlessly so. And if you’re in the mood for a B-road blast, slot it into Sport mode and all the systems respond with pleasing sharpness, helping it live up to that 330e badge on the boot, regardless of what that actually stands for these days.

    Bar the badging, the additional ‘fuel flap’, and some of the dash displays, the 330e looks like every other 3 Series.

    TECHNICAL DATA #2016 / #BMW-F30 / #BMW-330e-Sport / #BMW-330e-Sport-F30 / #BMW-330e-F30 / #BMW / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-F30 / #BMW-330e

    DRIVETRAIN: 1998cc turbocharged in-line-four-cylinder petrol with synchronous electric motor, eight-speed #Steptronic auto, rear-wheel drive
    MAX POWER: Petrol: 184hp @ 5000-6500rpm; Electric: 88hp @ 2500rpm; Combined: 252hp
    MAX TORQUE: Petrol: 214lb ft @ 1350-4250rpm; Electric: 184lb ft @ 0-2500rpm; Combined: 310lb ft
    0-62MPH: 6.1 seconds
    TOP SPEED: 140mph
    ECONOMY: 134.5-148.7mpg
    EMISSIONS: 44-49g/km
    WEIGHT (EU): 1735kg
    PRICE 2016 UK: From £31,735 (including £2500 Government plug-in car grant)
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    12 years of ownership have resulted in one gorgeous E46. It’s traditional after 12 years of marriage to celebrate your silk anniversary, so it’s fitting that 12 years of ownership have resulted in one super-smooth E46. Words: Elizabeth de Latour Photos: Matt Petrie

    Ah, the E46. What a great car, both to own and drive. It’s arguably one of BMW’s best efforts on all fronts. It’s also a great way to get your first taste of modified car life, a nice way to ease yourself into the scene gently and take things slowly while you find your feet, right? Well not for 27-year-old New Jersey resident Jorge Hernandez. Not only is this awesome build is his first BMW, or even his first modified car; it’s both of those things, as it’s his first ever car. It’s not that he’s just learnt to drive, though, he’s actually owned this E46 330i for 12 years!

    “I was first made aware of how special BMWs were when my cousin came home with his brand-new car: a Techno violet E36 M3,” explains Jorge. It clearly made a big impression on the young man. “Since then I knew I had to have a BMW,” he says. However, as a four-door fan, with no E46 M3 Saloon available, Jorge ended up buying a blue E46 330i Saloon in 2004.

    While he was well aware of the modified car scene at that time, he had no clear vision for his E46. Flick through a 2004 issue of PBMW and you’ll see that the modified BMW scene was a very different, and rather scary, place back then. It was full of outrageous body kits and dubious styling mods that have, thankfully, long since been forgotten about. It was a world that needed some careful navigation to avoid creating a car that would end up looking like a mobile eyesore. Luckily, help was at hand in the shape of the E46Fanatics forum and after some quality time spent online, Jorge soon began to form a clearer picture of the direction he wanted to take his E46 in.

    One thing he’s not done much with over the past 12 years is the engine. “I always wanted to keep the motor semi-stock as I’m not a big speed freak,” he explains. “I just wanted to do all of the little bolt-ons to make a little quicker it and sound better.”

    That sounds pretty modest but Jorge’s chosen some really choice mods under the bonnet and he’s definitely not scrimped on quality with his selection of engine upgrades. To start, there’s an extremely sexy GruppeM carbon fibre intake and a set of Technik Gen 3 equal-length exhaust manifolds, which most definitely give the E46 a bit more power and ramp up the volume level of that glorious straight-six.

    And the whole lot is topped off with a Remus Powersound quad exhaust that really looks the part and sounds fantastic, too. The engine bay itself has been treated to a whole host of carbon fibre goodies, including a Radenergie strut brace and engine cover plus an EAS carbon ECU cover and oil filler cap.

    On the styling front this E46 delivers big time. Jorge has done an awesome job here and he’s definitely achieved his goal of creating a car that looks both clean and aggressive. “I feel like everything has to flow in a particular way, and that meant mixing and matching the pieces from a bunch of different companies,” he says. PBMW regular, Autocouture Motoring, was entrusted to work its magic and fit Jorge’s array of parts.

    We really have to talk about the bonnet, not just because it’s a Vorsteiner GT-R carbon fibre item, which makes it pretty special, but also because of the paint finish on it. Where some people might choose to leave their vents unpainted, exposing the carbon core of the bonnet, Jorge has had the whole lot painted but the slats of the vents themselves have been finished in a crazy rainbow flake blue that looks spectacular when it catches the light and which really makes the vents pop. The front bumper is an M Tech 1 item from the pre-face-lift Sport E46, and while it’s not as aggressive as the latter version it’s got a much smoother, fatter, fuller look that a lot of people prefer.

    It ties in perfectly with the face-lift styling, too. The bumper has been enhanced with the addition of a Rieger front lip that’s been blended into the bumper for a cleaner look. The mirrors are genuine AC Schnitzer items and are complemented by a Schnitzer roof spoiler while the sculpted side skirts are Hamann GT-R items. At the back, there’s a Euro-spec carbon fibre CSL bootlid, which looks great on the Saloon, and an SRS-Tec rear bumper with a dual-ribbed diffuser plus space for the quad tips of that Remus exhaust. Jorge’s also had the body mouldings colour-coded and fitted Euro turn signals all-round.

    The interior has been left alone. “I think BMW did it right,” says Jorge, but one area that has been improved is the audio as the stock system is pretty disappointing unless you or someone else ticked the Harman Kardon upgrade box on the options list. Up front, there’s a Kenwood double-DIN DDX371 headunit, while in the boot you’ll find a JL Audio 500/1 amp and 12w6v2 sub plus a Stinger capacitor, all mounted in a custom enclosure which has been painted body colour and features a suede-wrapped floor and side panels.

    So the styling is well and truly sorted, but it’s no good having a killer car if you don’t have the wheels to match. Fear not, Jorge’s choice for the E46 is awesome. “I’ve always been a fan of having wheels that you don’t see often,” he says. “I was offered a sponsorship by Rotiform and it had exactly what I wanted: a set of SJCs.” This bold, intricate wheel is the perfect choice to sit alongside that strong blue paint and Jorge opted for the forged multi-piece design in a brushed finish and mirror polished stepped lips. The wheels – 9x19” and 10x19” front and rear respectively – really suit the E46 well and the decision to keep them unpainted was definitely the right one as they really stand out. Plus the brushed finish looks so good. The Rotiforms have been teamed up with a stud conversion kit which has been topped-off with a set of neochrome wheel nuts. Beyond the spokes sit some bright yellow Porsche 996 911 calipers and a set of CSL discs.

    Jorge has also sorted the suspension and there’s actually a lot more going on here than meets the eye. The drop in ride height comes courtesy of a set of Broadway Static coilovers but then there are the H&R anti-roll bars, the Turner Motorsport adjustable endlinks, the Rogue Engineering rear shock mounts and, finally, the Bimmerworld camber arms. Jorge’s clearly put a lot more thought into his suspension setup than most do and this combination has not only given this E46 that all-important visual drama but also sharpened-up the handling no end, making it far more than just all about the looks.

    It’s rare to meet someone on the modified #BMW scene who has owned their car for this long but it’s refreshing to see. And aside from planning to swap the Steptronic gearbox for a six-speed manual, it looks like Jorge’s reached a point where he’s happy and the modifying will stop. For the time being, at least. And who wouldn’t be happy with this E46? It’s a fantastic-looking car with a lot of great details and it’s an incredibly satisfying point for Jorge to be at after over a decade of modifying.

    Above: 19” Rotiform SJCs with brushed centres and Porsche 911 brake kit. Right: JL amp and sub add a bit more bass to musical proceedings.

    DATA FILE #BMW-E46 / #BMW-330i / #BMW-330i-E46 / #Rotiform / Steptronic / #Technik / #BMW-3-Series-Sedan / #BMW-3-Series / #BMW-3-Series-E46 /

    ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 3.0-litre straight-six #M54B30 / #M54 / #BMW-M54 , #Technik-Gen-3 headers, #GruppeM carbon fibre ram-air intake, #Radenergie carbon fibre strut brace and carbon fibre engine cover, #EAS carbon fibre ECU cover, air filter cover and oil cap, #Remus-Powersound quad exhaust. Five-speed #Steptronic gearbox

    CHASSIS 9x19” (front) and 10x19” (rear) Rotiform-SJC wheels with brushed centres, 215/35 (front) and 255/30 (rear) tyres, Broadway Static coilovers, H&R anti-roll bars, Turner Motorsport adjustable endlinks, Rogue Engineering rear shock mounts, Bimmerworld camber arms, Porsche 996 Carrera Brembo BBK, OEM E46 M3 CSL floating discs

    EXTERIOR #Vorsteiner-GT-R carbon fibre bonnet, M Tech 1 front bumper with moulded Rieger lip, #AC-Schnitzer mirrors, #Hamann GT-R side skirts, painted body mouldings, Euro turn signals, AC Schnitzer roof spoiler, Euro-spec carbon fibre CSL bootlid, SRS-Tec rear bumper with dual ribbed diffuser

    INTERIOR Brushed aluminium trim, Kenwood DDX371 head unit, JL Audio 12w6v2 sub, JL Audio 500/1 amp, Stinger capacitor, custom enclosure painted body colour with floor and side panels wrapped in suede
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    The Supercar People Carrier #2016

    Behind the Wheel This month we sample the latest plug-in hybrid, the 225xe, and discover it’s rather good. BMW drops the i8’s drivetrain into the #BMW-2-Series #Active-Tourer for a new plug-in hybrid model and the resulting MPV is probably one of the most exciting ways to ferry the kids about. Words: Matt Robinson. Photography: BMW.

    BMW has been doing eco-motors for a lot longer than most. Back in 1983 it created an E28 525e, the ‘e’ standing for ‘eta’. Taking an M20 straight-six and fitting a different crank for a longer stroke, the 525e focused on fuel-saving over power. Obviously, this being the 1980s, we’re probably talking about the difference between 20mpg and 22mpg, but the point remains valid.

    However, it was in 2000 that the company really focused on improving its fleet-wide green credentials, with Munich working on the #EfficientDynamics (ED) suite of ecological technologies. By 2007, the first cars with ED standards were launched and today all BMWs use the measures. It was only a year later when the ActiveHybrids appeared, BMWs with mild electrification to eke out their fuel reserves. Clever and unobtrusive tech, indeed, but really a company with BMW’s engineering genius could do better. Cue the i-brand. Stunning the world with the i3 batteryelectric city car and the absolutely incredible i8 plugin hybrid ( #PHEV ) supercar, these two vehicles weren’t just vanity projects designed to show what electric heights BMW could scale: they also heralded the wider electrification of the mainstream range. The models subsequently chosen for #BMW-PHEV treatment show Munich’s crafty intelligence. First up was the mighty X5, a sales phenomenon and a vehicle that could only benefit from an official 85.6mpg and 77g/km of CO² emissions as the xDrive40e. Then BMW announced the gadget-laden 7 Series will be hybridised, although we won’t actually see the 740e (badge TBC) until later this year. Finally, the absolute essence of Munich, the 3 Series, was graced with the same 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, petrolelectric drivetrain of the X5, albeit slightly detuned for the 330e to 252hp and 310lb ft.

    We drove the 330e on the same launch event as this car, the 225xe Active Tourer, which completes a wave of four plug-in vehicles in the space of nine months. Clearly, #BMW felt that, for family buyers who liked the idea of a PHEV but were against an SUV like the X5, then the 2 Series MPV would be a more acceptable choice. What’s most intriguing is that the 225xe has the i8’s drivetrain… Oh, all right, that’s not strictly true; there are differences. For a start, it has been flipped through 180 degrees compared to the i8, so in the 225xe the petrol engine drives the front axle while the electric motor controls the rear; and, yes, that means the 2 Series PHEV can be a front-, rear- and ultimately four-wheel drive BMW, hence the ‘x’ in its model name.

    Furthermore, the 225xe doesn’t have the twospeed reduction gear for the electric motor, instead making do with a single-speed item like the i3, while the system’s overall output is scaled back from the i8’s 362hp/421lb ft muscle. Instead, the 1.5-litre turbocharged triple delivers 136hp and 162lb ft (it’s the engine from the MINI Cooper) while its electric motor adds 88hp and 122lb ft.

    Unlike other BMW PHEVs, here the overall peak numbers are the sum of their parts. With both motors the 225xe kicks out 224hp and 284lb ft – rudely healthy data for a compact MPV. Coupled to all-wheel drive traction and a kerb weight of 1660kg (heavy, but not ludicrously so), the 225xe is rapid: 0-62mph takes 6.7 seconds and the top speed is 126mph. And it feels every bit as punchy as that on the roads, the 2 Series dispatching questionable overtakes with ease. The three-pot motor is a gem, too, making a great noise in this application, if not quite up to the melody it makes in the i8.

    From the inside there’s little to distinguish that this is a Hybrid version of the 2 Series Active Tourer, although the underfloor boot space is less generous than in a conventionally-powered version.

    The fuel economy is pretty impressive, too, although it needs to be couched in terms of reality, rather than on-paper stats. The 141.2mpg economy with 46g/km CO² are figures attainable only by citybased users who spend maybe 80 or 90 per cent of their time commuting on electric power alone, with the odd weekend out-of-town jaunt. Use the petrol engine regularly and those figures will inevitably tumble. So let us give you both sides of the coin: on a 50-mile route, overall it returned 54.3mpg at an average of 28.9mph, which is excellent for a powerful, tall, petrol-drinking, four-wheel drive MPV like this, but just 38 per cent of its quoted average; however, for the first 12.5 miles of the trip, through some of Munich’s stickiest traffic, it majored on the electric motor and delivered an utterly remarkable 149.6mpg instead.

    If you do use the electric motor a lot (in the Max eDrive mode), then you have a range of 26 miles and a limited top speed of 78mph, slightly higher than other BMW PHEVs. It is, of course, so much quieter and smoother when whipping about town in zero-emissions running than any other 2 Series would be, so it’s a shame that the ride is overly firm and the tyres emit a loud rumble. We will concede the 225xe we drove was on winter rubber, so maybe it’ll be less noisey on regular tyres.

    Yet that stiff ride translates into the sort of handling that shames any comparable-sized MPV going. Based on front-wheel drive architecture it may be, but the 225xe is unquestionably a BMW in its dynamic makeup. Lift the throttle mid-bend and it will cleanly tuck its nose in as the tail goes light, while the steering is (by the standards of its rivals) great. The six-speed Steptronic automatic is flawless and the brakes – still required to do two jobs, namely harvesting kinetic energy and stopping the car – feel a little better modulated than those on the 330e. In short, while it might not be an i8 in a stovepipe hat, it feels like a little of the dihedral-doored sports car’s DNA has rubbed off onto the sensible Active Tourer.

    So it’s yet another hugely impressive PHEV from BMW, with the main two stumbling blocks being the ride and its price. If you can live with the former (and many will), the 225xe starts at £35,155 excluding the government’s £5000 plug-in car grant… which reduces to £2500 from 1 March. That means the 2 AT PHEV currently costs at least £30,155, rising to £32,655 in spring, compared to the 225i xDrive’s £32,010 ticket. That doesn’t exactly make this 2 Series Active Tourer cheap but it remains a practical, spacious family car that might just be the answer to rising fuel costs for many urbanites. And as it really has no direct rivals (go on, name another premium AWD electric MPV) then BMW’s long-running obsession with eco-vehicles looks like it is finally paying off handsomely.

    TECHNICAL DATA #BMW-225xe-Active-Tourer / #BMW-225xe / #BMW-225xe-F45 / #BMW-F45 / #BMW-225xe-Active-Tourer-F45 /

    ENGINE: 1.5-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol with synchronous electric motor, six-speed #Steptronic auto (petrol) plus reduction gear (electric), four-wheel drive

    MAX POWER: Petrol: 136hp @ 4400rpm; electric: 88hp @ 4000rpm; combined peak output 224hp

    MAX TORQUE: Petrol 162lb ft @ 1250-4300rpm; electric 122lb ft @ 0-3000rpm; combined peak output 284lb ft

    0-62MPH: 6.7 seconds

    TOP SPEED: 126mph

    ECONOMY: 141.2mpg

    EMISSIONS: 46g/km

    PRICE: From £30,155 including government’s £5000 grant (until March 1, see copy)
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    A Viable Option? #2016

    The new #BMW-X5-40e #BMW-F15 costs the same as a xDrive40d model but which makes more sense to buy? #BMW-UK has pitched the #Hybrid-X5-40e right into the section of the 4x4 market occupied by the X5 40d… but is the part-petrol, part-electric machine a real alternative? Words: Bob Harper. Photography: BMW.

    So here it is, the first of what will be four full plug-in hybrid models that #BMW will be launching in the UK this year. The X5 is the first to get the #PHEV treatment but following closely on its heels will be the 330e (that you can read about on ), the 220xe and the 740e and no doubt when the new Five and Six are eventually announced both of those cars’ architecture will have been designed to allow full use of BMW’s drivetrain of choice.

    We’ve already had ‘ActiveHybrid’ versions of the 3, 5 and 7 Series but the next generation of BMW Hybrids are far more advanced than those and promise greater electric ranges and are less compromised in day-to-day use than its previous efforts. The real question that needs answering is whether one of these hybrids, and specifically this X5 we have here today, will actually suit your motoring needs? I would suggest that you’d need to sit down with a large piece of paper that will end up being covered in hastily squiggled figures to try and work out whether a hybrid or one of BMW’s already excellent diesel versions makes most sense for your specific needs.

    I have to hold my hands up and say that I approached the test of this new kid on the block with a fair amount of cynicism – a diesel X5 is a wonderful machine to drive and own and with the hybrid’s limited range and perhaps less than stellar real-world economy figures I was finding it a difficult concept that someone would actually prefer to invest in the 40e than a 40d. First impressions are certainly good however – the X5 40e in M Sport trim we have here retains the big 4x4’s handsome good looks and is still an imposing piece of kit. It’s not likely your neighbours will notice it’s a hybrid either unless they catch you charging it or clock the small 40e script on the front doors or the subtle eDrive logo sitting on the X5’s rump.

    Once I’ve clambered up into the X5, made myself comfortable and adjusted mirrors and seat to my satisfaction, I make the school boy error of assuming I’ve managed to break the X5 as pressing the starter button doesn’t elicit any sort of engine starting noises from under the bonnet. The dash pod glows nicely and I soon realise that the X5 is ‘running’ and that all I need to do if release the electronic handbrake.

    Moving off with nary a whisper from the drivetrain is always a slightly uncanny feeling, but it’s one you soon become accustomed to in the X5. Once you’re rolling it’s not an entirely noise-free environment as a certain amount of road noise and tyre roar do eventually permeate the cabin as the speed rises. Trundling around the Berkshire sub-suburban roads where speeds are generally pretty low sees the four-cylinder twin-turbo slumbering, letting the electric motor and batteries take the strain until the speed rises to around 42mph and then the internal combustion side of the equation joins the party. We seem to use the word ‘seamless’ to describe so many things these days, but it really is the right description of the way the engine kicks in and out – if I hadn’t caught the movement of the rev counter needle out of the corner of my eye I really wouldn’t have realised the engine had kicked in.

    After around 20 minutes of driving, not desperately fast, not intentionally slowly, simply keeping pace with the rest of the traffic on the road, the X5 is indicating a pretty staggering 73.9mpg. This rises and falls pretty rapidly depending on whether the four-cylinder is in play or not, and we must bear in mind that the battery was fully charged before departure, but it’s the sort of figure a diesel X5 could only dream about. The flip side of the coin is that when you use all the performance the economy plummets dramatically, but it’s worth remembering that there’s a lot of performance on offer if you use the combined might of the twin-scroll turbo four and the electric motor. Together they offer up 313hp (identical to the X5 40d’s output) and 332lb ft of torque (considerably down on the 40d’s 465lb ft) and if you ask it to, the 40e will really fly, taking you by surprise as this isn’t the sort of forward momentum you’re conditioned to expect in a car that has eco credentials. You’ll need to use the upper end of the rev-range in the 40e to enjoy the best it has to offer, but that’s no hardship as it does sound pretty good when revved hard. So, put simply, it’s pretty enjoyable to punt along, whether looking to eke every last bit of charge from the battery in the quest for ever-better economy figures, or when giving it a good old fashioned pasting.

    But how does the X5 40e seemingly manage to offer the best of both worlds? As mentioned it uses the fourcylinder turbocharged engine (in a 245hp state of tune) allied to a synchronous electric motor (offering 113hp and 184lb ft of torque) that’s housed within the eight-speed automatic transmission. It has an all-electric range of between 14 and 19 miles and that latter figure is actually the distance market research has shown to be the average journey by X5 owners. BMW UK has put together some figures for what it expects potential owners will achieve under certain driving conditions and these may well help you decide on whether or not it’s going to be suitable for your needs.

    In an urban commuting environment with journeys of up to 15 miles, BMW reckons you should be able to achieve 94mpg, running almost exclusively on electric power. For an owner using their X5 for trips of between 30 and 40 miles a day including commuting BMW expects returns in the mid-40s, typically 43-47mpg (better than you’d get with a diesel-powered X5) but over longer journeys (over 125 miles) the 40e is expected to return between 26 and 27mpg, making it less economical than a diesel model. All these figures assume you’re starting off with a fully charged battery pack, too, but as the X5 only takes two and a half hours to charge on a BMW i Wallbox (and three and a half from a standard 13amp socket) this shouldn’t be too difficult to achieve.

    However, it’s worth considering that fuel economy isn’t the be all and end all when considering one’s overall motoring cost. For instance, the difference between running a car that does 30mpg compared to one that does 40mpg is only around £380 a year if you do 10k miles per year. If one assumes the 40e returns the former and the 40d the latter you’d need to factor in road tax (free for the 77g/km 40e) while the 157g/km 40d would cost you £180… bringing the overall cost difference to just £200. So it’s as near as makes no difference. What makes a huge difference is if you intend on running one of these as a company car as the chasm in Benefit in Kind rates are significantly larger. An X5 40e will cost a 40 per cent tax payer a little over £3000 in tax whereas a 40d will be getting on for double that figure… and surely that’s a pretty large chunk of cash unless your surname’s Abramovich.

    There are some compromises in running the Hybrid 4x4, particularly if you wanted to spec a third row of seats in your X5, as this simply isn’t available in the 40e. Boot space is somewhat compromised too, and while it still has a virtually flat load bay its capacity is down to 500 litres (the 40d has 650) with the seats up, while maximum carrying capacity is down to 1720 for the 40e compared the 1870 for the non-hybrid models. Overall though I was impressed with the 40e and were my monthly company car allowance somewhat larger and I was interested in a large 4x4 it would undoubtedly be on my short list. I would be able to get virtually all the way to the office in pure electric mode, charge it for a couple of hours and return home in the same manner. The car’s energy management system would help here too. As well as the expected Drive Performance Control switch to toggle between Eco Pro, Comfort and Sport modes there’s a separate eDrive switch that allows you to tailor the use of the batteries to best effect. The default mode is ‘Auto eDrive’ which allows for electric driving up to around 40mph and focuses on the best efficiency. ‘Max eDrive’ will see the X5 running purely on electric power up to speeds of 75mph and the four-cylinder will only be awoken from its slumber should you either exceed that speed or use kick down. The last mode is ‘Save Battery’ which allows you to effectively shut off the electric motor to save the battery for when you get to an urban area later in your journey, and this would be ideal for me to switch off the electric side of the equation when I’m on the (mostly) open roads of Kent, reverting to battery power for the last congested slog into London. And if you use the satellite navigation system the car basically works all this out for you.

    It certainly won’t be for everyone, but the 40e’s combination of low running costs (depending on your driving needs), low company car tax and the fact that it’s actually a hoot to drive quickly when the mood happens to take you makes BMW’s first full hybrid a bit of a winner if you ask me. My only fear is that BMW won’t be able to make them fast enough…

    Interior of the 40e shares the same handsome architecture as other X5s.

    eDrive lets you make the most of hybrid modes; boot is smaller than regular X5 and there’s no seven-seat option.

    TECHNICAL DATA FILE #BMW-X5-xDrive40e-M-Sport / #BMW-X5-F15 / #BMW-X5 / #BMW-X5-xDrive40e-M-Sport-F15 / #BMW-X5-xDrive40e-F15 /

    DRIVETRAIN: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol with synchronous electric motor, eight-speed #Steptronic automatic, four-wheel drive

    MAX POWER: 245hp at 5000-6500rpm (petrol), 113hp at 3170rpm (electric motor)

    MAX TORQUE: 258lb ft at 1250-4800rpm (petrol), 184lb ft @ 0rpm (electric motor)
    0-62MPH: 6.8 seconds
    TOP SPEED: 130mph (limited)
    ECONOMY: 85.6mpg
    CO2 EMISSIONS: 77g/km
    PRICE (OTR): £56,705
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    Electric Dreams? Sampling BMW’s all-new hybrid #BMW-3-Series , the 330e, and it’s a lot better than we were expecting. BMW’s electrifying expansion of its mainstream range continues and this is the most crucial model yet: the 330e. But do we feel a spark when driving it? Time to find out… Words: Matt Robinson. Photography: / #BMW / #BMW-F30 / #BMW-330e-F30 / #BMW-330e / #2016 / #BMW-F30/2 /

    I remember my first encounter with a BMW 330d. It was a post-face-lift E46 Saloon, a dark grey SE that I had to pick up from BMW UK’s former headquarters in Bracknell and drive back to Gloucester on a typically grimy British winter evening. At the time, I was young and hot-headed, a staunch diesel naysayer. And I certainly wasn’t alone in my opinion; despite the fledgling years of common-rail injection bringing significant and rapid improvements to old Rudolf’s compression engine, to many the 330d was an inferior alternative to a 330i – BMW’s classic, compact, straight-six petrol heartland.

    You probably know what’s coming next. I’d barely got to Swindon and the turning for the A419 (which cuts off the M4/M5 interchange by running along the fringes of the Cotswolds) before I realised that petrol’s game was up. So phenomenal was the 204hp turbodiesel that it wholly converted me to a ‘dervangelist’ in the space of about 70 miles. The four-door Three demolished the distance with disdain as it scythed through the cold, dark night at well in excess of 40mpg. It really did appear to be all things to all men.

    Of course, BMW has been doing diesel for a lot longer than that 330d of 2004, with a lineage stretching right back to the E28 524td of 1982. But it was that M57 D30 six-pot engine, seen first in the E39 530d in 1998 and then expanding into the 3 Series and other model lines, that started the seachange within the marque that saw diesels become by far the preferred choice for the majority of BMW buyers; well, in this country and Europe, at least. Presumably, BMW is hoping for a similar moment of enlightenment for its customers with this new 330e. Like the difficulty Munich encountered in getting the public to accept a ‘d’-suffix at the end of the model number instead of an ‘i’, now ‘e’ is the latest fashion and it’s the letter that supposedly makes the most eco-sense in the wake of Volkswagen’s ‘Dieselgate’ shame. Ironic, really, that diesel’s future looks under threat from petrol once more, albeit petrol with the assistance of electricity.

    That’s right, the 330e is a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, or PHEV. This is BMW’s i-brand know-how continuing to encroach into the marque’s core model offerings, the outlandish i3 and i8’s presence in showrooms bolstered by the likes of the X5 xDrive40e, the forthcoming BMW 740e and the 225xe Active Tourer we’ll be bringing you a review of next month. The 330e actually shares a lot of hardware with the X5 PHEV, as it has the same longitudinally-mounted 2.0-litre four-cylinder TwinPower Turbo petrol engine up front with the electric motor sandwiched into the glorious eightspeed automatic transmission, but it doesn’t get 340e badging, as its drivetrain is less powerful than the X5’s (252hp and 310lb ft, compared to 313hp and 332lb ft) and it’s also rear-wheel drive, where the SUV has traction at all corners.

    Lighter than the X5 by more than 600kg, though, the 330e is in another league in terms of its performance, be that against the clock or with regards to its energy usage. BMW quotes a rapid 6.1-second 0-62mph time and a 140mph top speed for the 330e, but it’s the official economy and CO² emissions that cause jaws to hit the floor. The 3 Series PHEV doesn’t just eclipse the X5 40e, it also embarrasses its 330i and 330d siblings; obliterating them with 148.7mpg and just 44g/km CO². Even upgrading to larger alloys only causes slight deteriorations, to 134.5mpg and 49g/km, so any way you cut it, these are truly exceptional, road tax-free returns.

    Naturally, the cynics out there will be gearing up to take the 330e’s case apart immediately, citing the fact no #PHEV can ever get near its stratospheric on-paper boasts. And, if our test drive figures are anything to go by, they’ve got plenty of ammunition. On a flat, urban/extra-urban route in and around Munich, where the temperature was seven degrees centigrade, we covered 79 miles at an average of 34.4mph and got back 62.8mpg, with 7.0kWh/62.5 miles of battery use at the same time. That’s 42 per cent of what the 330e is supposedly capable of.

    However, let’s reassess. BMW legally has to quote the NEDC figures and everyone associated with the automotive industry now knows that these bear little resemblance to reality, with the data for PHEVs particularly skewed. Furthermore, BMW maintains many of its customers worldwide only commute 19 miles a day. So, with plenty of access to charging points at home and places of work, such owners could use the 330e’s fully electric range of 25 miles day in, day out, and never touch the fossil fuel in the tank. Also, on the same route, despite it now being a four-cylinder motor, the 330i would probably have failed to surpass 30mpg and even a 330d wouldn’t have got close to the 330e’s returns. Thus, we’re inclined to label the hybrid Three as an economical success story.

    So, if we accept the electrification has, like the E46 330d did back in 2004, given all drivers the best of both worlds – economy and power – then we have to satisfy two further questions: how does the 330e drive, and has the integration of the electric motor and battery affected the car’s practicality?

    On the latter score, there’s a reduction in boot space of 110 litres to 370 litres in total – a result of the lithium-ion battery being mounted under the cargo area’s floor. However, it remains a large, wellshaped space and there’s a neat little pocket to the left-hand side in which owners can store the baggedup charging cable when it’s not in use.

    BMW has also decided not to equip the 330e with any distinctive signifiers, like flatfaced aero alloys or blue exterior trim, for example, which will easily mark it out. Only the boot badge, ‘eDrive’ logos on the C-pillars and the electric charging port on the nearside front wing differentiates it from a 330d. To all intents and purposes, from the outside the clever hybrid is just another 3 Series, which will be of appeal to potential customers.

    Inside, a few extra hybrid-related screens are available in the instrument cluster and iDrive display, there’s a read-out for the battery’s charge level, while blue stitching and mesh-effect cloth trim are specific to the 330e. There’s also the eDrive button, which – like the X5 and i8 – cycles between Auto eDrive, Max eDrive and Save. The first of these lets the car choose between electric, hybrid and petrol power as required, Max eDrive locks the Three into full electric mode (if the battery’s up to it) and Save favours the 2.0-litre four and brake recuperation to hold or replenish the battery’s charge.

    No matter which of these modes it’s in, the 330e drives in a supremely confident and composed manner, although its 1665kg bulk does rob it of the final degree of dynamic sharpness. However, the ride is fabulous, noise suppression is superb at all times and when it’s running in zero-emissions EV mode, it is so much quieter than either a 330i or 330d could ever hope to be. The steering is fantastic and the 330e’s body control is also top drawer, although the brakes have a slightly two-stage feel to them thanks to their energy-harvesting duties, while the 2.0-litre engine – always smooth and free-revving – isn’t one of BMW’s most charismatic units. The better news is that, whether it’s using only one of its motors or both in unison, the 330e feels extremely rapid; it’s simply that it prefers being driven just within itself, rather than being thrashed right up to the ragged edge. If that really bothers you, you’ll need a 335d, 340i or an M3 instead.

    Personally speaking, I’ve not been won over in such an alarmingly easy fashion by the 330e of 2016 as I was by the 330d 12 years ago, although this is probably the most comprehensively rounded #BMW-PHEV yet, i8 included. It’s a fine car that will absolutely meet the needs of a large proportion of 3 Series buyers, be they private or business users. There’s one more ace up the 330e’s sleeve and that’s a starting price of £28,935, including the government’s £5000 grant, as an SE; from 1 March, that grant reduces to £2500, increasing the 330e’s entry point to £31,435. But as an auto 330i starts from £34,690 (Luxury spec) and the cheapest 330d costs £37,800, you can see just how competitively BMW has priced this PHEV.

    Whatever we think of the slightly fuzzy dynamics, the fact of the matter is that the 330e is a stunning integration of electric drive into BMW’s single most important model. Does the 3 Series PHEV bring the curtain down on diesel’s short era of dominance, then? Not quite, but it’s increasingly looking like the beginning of the end for ‘d’. The future is clearly going to belong to ‘e’.

    Interior is basically as per all other F30 Threes bar the additional read-outs on the iDrive screen and the car’s ability to do 120km/h without bothering the petrol engine!

    Whether it’s using only one of its motors or both in unison, the 330e feels extremely rapid.

    Hybrid drivetrain includes an electric motor within the gearbox casing and a battery pack under the boot floor which does make the boot 110 litres smaller.


    DRIVETRAIN: 2.0-litre turbocharged inline-four petrol with synchronous electric motor, eight-speed #Steptronic auto, rear-wheel drive
    MAX POWER: Petrol 184hp at 5000-6500rpm; electric 88hp at 2500rpm; combined peak output 252hp
    MAX TORQUE: Petrol 214lb ft at 1350-4250rpm; electric 184lb ft at 0-2500rpm; combined peak output 310lb ft, 0-62mph: 6.1 seconds
    TOP SPEED: 140mph
    EMISSIONS: 44g/km
    PRICE: From £28,935, including government’s £5000 grant (until 1 March)

    Charging point hidden behind flap on left front wing; it’ll take a full charge in three hours from a standard domestic setup, two and a half hours from a #BMW-i-Wallbox .
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    With custom styling, custom wheels and attention to detail to die for, this is one of the best E39s around. Prowling the dark streets of London is a devilish #BMW-5-Series that makes grown men go weak at the knees… Words: Elizabeth de Latour. Photos: Rash Bajwa.

    While the 3 Series may still rule the roost when it comes to the modified #BMW scene, it’s nice to see that the E39 is most definitely coming on strong. Back when I bought mine two years ago, there didn’t seem to be many Fives about and hardly any BMs on air-ride at all in general, but now it’s become a killer combination, and there are some stunning E39s about, such as this one, arguably one of the best E39s anywhere. Its owner is Sumil Pancholi and what makes his beautiful 5 Series all the more impressive is not just the painstaking level of detail but the fact that he’s gone from stock to show car in just six months.

    Now, Sumil is no stranger to modified cars, as he tells me when we meet one chilly night for his shoot: “I’ve definitely always been into cars and modding,” he says, “and I used to read Max Power and Fast Car when I was younger. When it was my turn to start modifying cars people had stopped playing with Corsas and Saxos and moved onto German cars so it got more expensive.”

    After a stint with VWs and then Audis, Sumil decided to move on to BMWs to “see what all the fuss was about” and judging by the fact that I’m here writing about his E39 it’s fair to say that he realised the fuss was fully justified and stuck with BMWs.

    The 530i is his third BMW, having been preceded by an E46 330d and an E92 330d: “After the E92 I wanted something a bit different and practical,” he says. “I thought the E39 was a beautiful car originally but I’d never seen one that had been extensively modified. I bought the car as a daily and while I knew I wanted to modify it, it was never the plan to take it this far,” he laughs. “It’s a Champagne I limited edition model. I specifically wanted a Champagne car – only 150 examples were produced and I’d never had a black car before plus I liked the lightcoloured interior.” Having been produced in such small numbers, however, means that Champagnes are not easy to come by and it took Sumil around five months of searching before this car appeared in Leicester. “I took the coach up, test drove the car, fell in love with it and bought it on the spot,” he grins and while during the first four months of ownership the car remained stock, the last six have been a whirlwind…

    We really should talk about the wheels first because not only are they a main attraction on this E39, Sumil’s actually owned them for four years. We’ll let him explain… “The wheels were originally Hartge Design Es and I had them on the E92 – originally they were Sparkling graphite to match the car and then I went for Midnight purple but for the E39 I wanted something different. On the E92 they were 8.5s and 9.5s but I wanted wider dishes, so I had them resurfaced to make them into Design C, the reason being that on the C the lips are facemounted so you get to see all of them so you get a bigger dish. For the extra width I ordered Radinox lips from Germany, which have taken the wheels to 10.25” wide up front and 10.75” at the rear, and I had the centres finished in a custom red with gold bolts. I knew when I was buying the car that I wanted air-ride so it’d be practical and I could drive it low but still get over speed bumps so I had an Air Lift kit fitted but that was all I had been planning on doing…”

    Before Sumil had bought the E39 it hadn’t been used much and the front arches had started rusting and the rears were also bubbling so he decided to have the car resprayed before deciding to do a bit of work on the styling front. “I hadn’t seen anything I liked and I wasn’t keen on the off the- shelf stuff so I knew that I was going to go down the custom route.” Dips at Custom Cars was tasked with handling all of the styling work on the car, beginning with the front bumper, blending in an E46 M3 front splitter onto the Sport bumper and also blending in a pair of Hamann foglight covers that Sumil got his hands on. The fogs themselves were then tinted and the front plate was made removable to give the car a cleaner look. With the front taken care of, Sumil turned his attention to the rear end, with the intention of giving the car a CSL bootlid and bought an add-on spoiler. This was to be blended onto the existing bootlid, but not before also deciding to go for a shorter rear number plate recess. In order for that to happen, a donor bootlid was purchased for £25 and Dips used the outer sections of the recess to create the requested smaller recess, blending it and the CSL lip seamlessly onto the existing bootlid.

    It has been trimmed down a touch, though, as it was just a bit too high and now, according to Sumil, it looks much better. After the boot came the bonnet with its E92 M3 power bulge. It’s probably the most impressive and dramatic of the styling modifications but making it happen was no easy task: “I wanted the bonnet to be a focal piece,” says Sumil, “and after a lot of searching I found an aftermarket M3 mould in Germany – it was a nightmare to get hold of, it was hard to source and it was hard to communicate with the seller, but in the end I managed to get my hands on it.”

    The job of adding the power bulge to the bonnet began as well as removing the BMW roundel and smoothing the recess. “I hate join lines,” says Sumil, “I like having everything blended in so the car looks like it could have come from the factory like that and so it looks subtle so people won’t necessarily notice the changes. I took a risk by doing something different with the E39 but it was worth it as I love the way the car looks now.” We’re inclined to agree, as the three hit combo of front lip, bonnet and boot is a seriously powerful one, not only endowing this E39 with a sense of aggression and drama that even the Sport models lack, but makes for a truly individual statement, and it’s one that has really made this Five stand out from the crowd.

    That is, however, only the beginning, as that aforementioned attention to detail is what really makes the difference and there are countless additional styling touches throughout the car that bring all the elements together. Now, red wheels on a black car is a great combination, but Sumil’s theme for the whole car is champagne and strawberries, and so there are actually countless red details throughout the car.

    On the outside the front lip, grilles, spoiler lip and rear diffuser have all been finished in a custom black red shade, so they look black until the light hits them and that’s when you get a subtle flash of dark red, though less subtle are custom blacked-out headlights with red angel eyes… The red theme extends to the engine bay, too, with numerous red highlights plus the fan cowling has been painted black red, but what you’re really going to be looking at under the bonnet, aside from the sexy Gruppe M carbon intake, is the rather flamboyant washer bottle setup: “So, I love vodka,” says Sumil, “and in the E92 I actually had a Grey Goose washer bottle – I wanted to do that again but with the E39 I needed something that would tie in with my colour scheme, so I opted for a Ciroc Red Berry bottle and Dips added a red LED so I can light it up when I’m parked up at a show with the bonnet open.”

    The interior has also been treated to some love and attention; the steering wheel has been retrimmed by Royal Steering Wheels, the rim now being thicker and there’s Champagne stitching to match the seats, which has also been added to the gear selector and handbrake gaiters, while the trims have also been sprayed in the same shade of black red as the exterior elements, with that deep red metallic flake catching the light beautifully. There’s also a custom mounting pod for the Audison Bit Ten DRC controller, as Sumil’s quite into his sounds, as demonstrated by the absolutely astonishing boot build. The E39’s sound system is pretty dire and with in-car audio being so important to Sumil, it was inevitable that he would turn his attention to this area of the Five. Inside, Morel components have been fitted up front while JL coaxials reside on the parcel shelf, all powered by a JL 600/4 HD amp with an Audison Bit Ten processor, while the boot is home to two JL 10W7AE subs powered by a JL 1200/HD amp, and the whole system allows for full wireless music streaming.

    The boot is also where you’ll find the airride install, with the twin tanks painted in the same custom red as the wheels, with gold hardlines just like the bolts on his Hartges, with everything trimmed in Alcantara. It’s seriously spectacular, just like the rest of the car.

    “I’ve done a lot in ten months,” muses Sumil as we stand admiring his E39, and he’s not wrong. It’s been pretty much a non-stop whirlwind of activity from the moment the project got off the ground until now, but it’s been more than worth it as he’s created an amazing machine. “For now I’m very happy,” he says, and while there is talk of a supercharger that’s got to wait a while until his funds recover. There’s no rush, though – as far as Sumil’s concerned, this car is most definitely a keeper and that comes as no surprise as it has become an extension of Sumil himself and is going to be a big part of his life for a very long time to come…

    I took a risk by doing something different but it was worth it Sumil Pancholi.

    19” three-piece Hartges are absolutely stunning while the subtle black red highlights include the spoiler lip.

    TECHNICAL DATA FILE #Air-ride #BMW-E39 / #BMW-530i / #BMW-530i-E39 / #BMW-530i-AirRide-E39 / #BMW

    ENGINE AND TRANSMISSION 3.0-litre straight-six #M54B30 / #M54 / #BMW-M54 , Grüppe M carbon intake, custom Ciroc Red Berry vodka screen wash bottle, red engine bay highlights, five-speed #Steptronic #ZF5HP gearbox.

    CHASSIS 10.25x19” (front) and 10.75x19” (rear) #Hartge Design C wheels with 3.25” Radinox lips, custom red centres and gold bolts with 235/35 (front and rear) Falken FK453 tyres, #AirLift-Performance air-ride with V2 management, K-Sport #BBK with eight-piston calipers and 356mm grooved discs (front).

    EXTERIOR Custom bonnet with powerdome, #BMW roundel delete, washer jets moved to windscreen wipers, custom front bumper with Hamann foglight covers and custom CSL splitter moulded in, custom air intake holes in centre grill, smoked foglights, custom blacked-out headlights, red angel eyes, rear diffuser, custom CSL-style bootlid with custom red lip, shortened numberplate recess, M5 door mirrors, custom LED lit door handles, AC Schnitzer roof spoiler.

    INTERIOR Fully refurbed Champagne interior, thicker steering wheel with Champagne stitching by Royal Steering Wheels, gear selector and handbrake gaiters with Champagne stitching, air tanks painted custom red, gold hardlines.

    AUDIO 5.25” Morel components (front), JL coaxials (rear), JL 600/4 HD amp, 2x JL 10W7AE subwoofers, JL 1200/HD amp, Audison Bit Ten processor, #Audison-Bit-Ten DRC controller, KnuKonceptz wiring.

    THANKS Dips for all his work on the car, my mum, my sister and my partner Vanika for being so patient with me for talking about cars all the time and spending most of my time with Dips or on the phone to him.

    Red colour-coding abundant in engine bay, including funky Cirroc Red Berry vodka washer bottle.

    While I knew I wanted to modify it, it was never the plan to take it this far Sumil Pancholi.
    • What’s this? An E39 in the PBMW CotY top three? Believe it, as Sumil Pancholi’s bagged beauty got enough votes to break the E30 stranglehold and punchWhat’s this? An E39 in the PBMW CotY top three? Believe it, as Sumil Pancholi’s bagged beauty got enough votes to break the E30 stranglehold and punched its way to the silver medal position. A Champagne edition E39 530i is a great place to start and this one has been treated to some extensive custom body work, including a custom bonnet with power dome, custom front bumper and custom CSL-style bootlid. A set of custom-finished Hartge Design C wheels with Radinox dishes and red centres have also been added and air-ride fitted for good measure, with a spectacular boot build. The engine bay has red detailing throughout and there’s even a Ciroc Red Berry vodka screenwash bottle with red illumination. With some sensational mods and stunning attention to detail throughout, it’s one of the best E39s about.  More ...
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    Just Right / #Dinan / #BMW-M235i / #BMW-M235i-F22 / #BMW-2-Series / #BMW-2-Series-Coupe / #BMW-M235i-M-Performance / #BMW-M235i-M-Performance-F22 / #BMW-M235i-M-Performance-Dinan-F22 / #BMW-F22 / #BMW-M235i-Dinan / #BMW-M235i-Dinan-F22 / #BMW-F22-Dinan / #Dinan / #2015

    A finely-honed BMW M235i with #M-Performance and Dinan upgrades. It seems like the M235i is loved the world over and here we have a subtle but stylish machine from Australia using a blend of M Performance and Dinan upgrades. Words & photography: Chris Nicholls.

    The M235i is, as has often been stated, the Goldilocks car of the BMW range. In terms of price, power, handling, practicality and even history, it hits the spot. This is especially the case in Australia, where #BMW list it at $55,000 in base form. In a country where a standard Cayman (the car’s natural rival in the UK) sells for double that, it has no real rivals. The new Mustang isn’t there yet, the local Holden and Ford performance heroes are much larger (and fourdoor), and none of its Japanese or European rivals are rear-wheel drive. It kind of explains why, when it first launched in Australia last year, there was actually a waiting list.

    That price also makes it the perfect base for tuning. Recent economic conditions in Australia mean that while the rich get richer (as they do elsewhere) and order ever more supercars, most people aren’t in a position to spend huge sums on modification. So an already fast and affordable base is a great starting point. But what to do? Obviously there’s a limit, given most people’s budgets, so it’s probably best to just make it look nicer and go a bit faster. But here again, there are options. Do you go aftermarket for everything, or do you go factory? After all, unlike some manufacturers, BMW does offer a large number of add-ons via its M Performance program. Perhaps a mix is the best way – combining the factory fit and finish of OEM parts and using aftermarket where the manufacturer doesn’t offer what you want?

    This is exactly the path Southern BM, one of Australia’s largest BMW specialists, decided to go down with its own M235i build. It realised there was room in the market for an affordable modification package to this popular performance car, and having gone the ‘all-aftermarket’ route for many of its other, more extreme builds, it wanted to offer something cheaper, simpler and easier to put together for its M235i customers.

    Given body and interior modifications are one area where hassles (namely fit and finish-related) almost always occur, the first order of business was to order extensively from the M Performance catalogue for these parts. On went almost the entire range of available exterior components, including front and rear lip spoilers, rear diffuser, carbon mirror covers, black kidney grille inserts, side skirt flashes and even decals, as well as the lovely 19-inch forged, doublespoke wheels. Inside, the excellent, hi-tech M Performance Alcantara wheel with race display replaced the standard tiller, not only adding some cool looks and a great steering feel, but also extra information for the driver. Many of the plastic components and panels were replaced by Alcantara and carbon ones, too.

    The results were, even after this round of alterations, profound. Decals aside, the exterior changes are subtle, but work together to help give the car a more planted, solid feel. Indeed, the extra aggression is something that many would probably argue the M235i needed from the factory. Andrew Brien, Southern BM’s co-founder, agrees, saying the looks were his team’s favourite part of the car. “We like the styling. BMW really changed up the looks with the introduction of this car and with the additional BMW M Performance parts, it really is a head-turner.”

    Inside as well, the seemingly small changes all come together to make the cabin a much more inviting and pleasant place to be. Slipping into the supportive leather seats, there’s an air of not just quality (as you’d find on the standard model), but genuine sportiness thanks to the carbon cladding and Alcantara coverings. It makes the M235i really feel like a driver’s car, and it’s an interior you don’t want to get out of.

    Initially, Southern BM also fitted an M Performance exhaust and brake discs to try and add some extra sportiness, but while the exhaust fitted perfectly and sounded great, Brien and his team also wanted to offer something more for customers, so as part of fitting a Dinan P1 Power Package (the aftermarket part of the mix), the M Performance system got dropped in favour of the included Dinan Free Flow stainless steel exhaust.

    Moving the car around for the shoot, it became obvious how different the Dinan exhaust was from the M Performance one, too. Listening to a YouTube video Southern BM posted of the factory version prior to the shoot, it’s clear the OEM pipes added a great bark on start up, a throaty burble on idle and a harder-edged metallic sound when revved, but the Dinan version steps it up a notch. You still get the bark on start up and burbling idle, but you get an even harder metallic kick on revving and it’s noticeably more baritone in its delivery. Southern BM has videos of both exhausts on its YouTube channel so they’re worth checking out for yourself if you’re planning to make such a move.

    The rest of the P1 package includes a carbon fibre cold air intake and Dinantronics Stage 2 tune, and fitting it all together was a smart move. Not only are all the parts designed to work in unison, in keeping with the whole ‘no fuss’ concept Southern BM wanted to offer, but attempting to tune things itself didn’t make much sense anyway.

    “With the introduction of the F-series cars, the tuning market changed a lot. These cars are no longer easily tuneable by means of flash tuning via OBD. We are Dinan dealers and the software development team at Dinan have great resources and talent to achieve a more enjoyable driver experience,” says Brien. The fact it also offers high-quality, ‘no compromise’ parts is just icing on the cake, so it’s no wonder Southern BM went with this kit.

    It’s hard to argue with the results, too. A quick chassis dyno check showed the components added 50whp, and while that’s less than the 56hp claimed by Dinan, as we all know, dyno differences, the weather on the day and other factors always come into play, so the claim seems solid.

    Interestingly, Brien argues that “the most impressive part of the tune is the increase in torque (a claimed 84lb ft), which allows you to pull hard when you open up the throttle”. As they say, though, power is nothing without control, which is why the final step in building this machine was fitting a #Quaife-ATB diff. “What is lacking on modern BMW cars is mechanical grip,” says Brien. “As you pull out of a corner, you want the throttle to respond, not react to traction control, so the Quaife LSD is a must-have.”

    For the unfamiliar, Quaife’s ATB series uses a helical, torque-biasing unit (as opposed to the more common clutch packs) which may not provide the same aggressive lock-up, but is much more usable on the road. Indeed, it’s likely you won’t notice it at all during daily driving – there is no clunking or recalcitrance. As with the rest of the build, it’s essentially like it was there from the factory.

    While it wasn’t possible to try the diff out at speed on the day of the shoot, riding along in a highly tuned 135i with one fitted a few weeks beforehand gave some insight into how much of a difference it makes. Not only does it work with the factory DSC, but when you turn the electronic aids off and slam the throttle, instead of traction control limiting things, both wheels spin up at equal speed and you get to enjoy the full accelerative force of the fettled N55 engine. It’s sublime. There’s also a very noticeable increase in turn-in, which, combined with the extra grip from the 19-inch Pirellis on the M235i, would no doubt transform it from being a nice, fast daily to a much more enjoyable winding road weapon. Indeed, Brien says that is exactly the case: “Not that the original car is in need of upgrades – they are nice cars out-of-the-box – but with these upgrades it makes this a really nice car and more enjoyable to drive.”

    Interestingly, despite the ever-increasing popularity of track days, Brien says he hasn’t taken it out on track just yet to truly test its limits, but then, that wasn’t ever really the brief for this car. “We weren’t looking to build a track car. To us, they are different beasts, looking to achieve different results. This car is a road tourer that you can have some comforts in if you are out cruising, but performs if you want to take the car to task up in the mountains.”

    Brien says they have considered building a “more extreme version”, and for track use would recommend Dinan anti-roll bars and Monoball kit, as well as performance pads, but for now, he’s happy with where the car is. “This build is to show the road user what can be achieved when looking for a clean road tourer,” he says. That ‘clean’ part is actually worth mentioning for those who might perhaps be unaware how important a low-key car is in Australia, especially the state of Victoria, where Southern BM is based. That’s because Australia in general, and Victoria in particular, has very restrictive laws when it comes to car modification. Bar some very small freedoms (mainly wheels, suspension and engine tuning mods that result in no more than a 20 per cent power gain), almost any aftermarket performance tuning needs to be certified by approved workshops, and given the truly serious stuff will likely never pass certification anyway, most people don’t even try.

    Even when they are approved or within legal boundaries to begin with, poorly-trained police can still pull your car over if they think it’s illegal and stick a nice, yellow defect notice on your windscreen that can’t be removed until you show them proof or get things recertified. This is why Victorian enthusiasts these days often try and go unnoticed and avoid police attention in the first place, and while this M235i is only lightly modified and therefore completely legal, the fact it’s relatively subtle means you’re likely to avoid being pulled over unnecessarily.

    Actually, the fact it can fly under the radar means this M235i ticks another box on the Goldilocks list. Right price, right performance, right practicality level and even right amount of tuning to be legal and avoid scrutiny. It really is just right.

    CONTACT: Southern BM

    TECH DATA #Southern-BM F22 M235i

    ENGINE: #BMW-N55 3.0-litre turbocharged straight-six / #N55
    POWER: 308rwhp (230rwkW)
    ENGINE MODIFICATIONS: #Dinan-P1 Power Package (carbon fibre cold air intake, free flow stainless steel exhaust, #Dinantronics Stage 2 tune)
    DRIVELINE MODIFICATIONS: Standard #ZF eight-speed #Steptronic automatic gearbox #Quaife ATB LSD
    CHASSIS/SUSPENSION MODIFICATIONS: Standard M Performance adaptive dampers / Standard suspension arms and anti-roll bars
    WHEELS AND TYRES: M Performance double-spoke 624 forged wheels (7.5x19-inch front, 8x19-inch rear), Pirelli P Zero RSC tyres (225/35 R19 front, 245/30 R19 rear)
    BRAKES: Stock M Performance #Brembo aluminium brake callipers (four-piston front, two-piston rear), #M-Performance cross-drilled and slotted s (370mm x 30mm front, 345mm x 24mm rear)

    M Performance front splitter
    M Performance carbon fibre rear spoiler
    M Performance rear diffuser
    M Performance carbon fibre mirror caps
    M Performance side stripes kit
    M Performance Rocker Panel film set
    M Performance gloss black grilles

    M Performance Alcantara steering wheel with carbon trim and race display
    M Performance carbon fibre and Alcantara interior trim set
    M Performance carbon fibre shifter console
    M Performance carbon fibre selector lever trim
    M Performance carbon fibre and Alcantara handbrake handle assembly
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    Think lows and you automatically think bags but this #BMW-840Ci-E31 bucks the trend with a hydraulic suspension setup. Bored of bags? Stick this 840 on hydraulics in your pipe and smoke it… Words: Elizabeth de Latour /// Photos: Steve McCann

    The 8 Series is a bit of a weird one. It appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, back in 1989, and stayed in production for ten years with no styling alterations inside or out (bar steering wheels and the sport kit). Some 30,621 were sold worldwide and then it disappeared and was never heard of again. It’s almost like an anomaly or some kind of freak natural event, and it’s not exactly a car that has ignited the modified #BMW scene either. There have been a couple of mildly tweaked examples here and there over the years but nothing to really make you sit up and think ‘wow’. But the times, they are a changin’ and the modified crowd is catching onto the underappreciated and rather magnificent #BMW-8-Series .

    You will recall that, earlier this year, Matt Clifford’s lush Velvet blue 840Ci graced our pages but there is another equally gorgeous 840 that perhaps you might not be so aware of, a car that you’re not going to see galavanting around British shows because this particular 840 is located a little further afield over in Northern Ireland.

    Its custodian is Blaine Leathem, a man who is one letter away from being a Batman villain but who is actually in mushroom marketing and procurement. Well mushrooms don’t just magically appear in your supermarket, now do they? (The urge to insert a mushroom pun here is almost unbearable ~ Ed). What’s more interesting than his fungus shenanigans, however, is his choice of car and growing up surrounded by BMWs set Blaine on the path that inevitably led to BMW ownership. “I have always had a liking for BMWs due to their styling, handling abilities and performance,” Blaine tells us, “and my family have always had an array of BMWs over the years. At one point we had an M3, 5, 6, 7 and 8 Series at the same time. The 840Ci was actually my first BMW (snap! ~ Ed). I bought it as I always revered the styling as completely unique and timeless. I believe there is nothing that comes close to the E31 in terms of styling, handling and performance but also in complete luxury. I remember the first time I saw an 8 Series as a kid and instantly fell in love with them. I knew I had to have one at some point. When I finally decided to buy one it was because I wanted something completely different from modern cars on sale at the time as they didn’t interest me and I wanted to be different.”

    Blaine found what would become his 840 being sold by a fellow enthusiast who actually had two and needed to let one go, so he snapped it up. With a history of modifying his cars it’s no surprise that the 840 didn’t stay stock but there were no plans to take things this far, at least to start with. “My plans for the car were quite low key,” he tells us. “I just wanted a nice set of upgraded wheels, lowered suspension (which turned out to be an issue due to lack of off-the-shelf aftermarket parts), and an exhaust to hear that gorgeous burble.” The car has been through a few changes over the years, including being wrapped Midnight purple following competing in the Modball Rally where the paint took a battering from stones and stickers. The car sat in storage for a bit while Blaine busied himself with his M3 but when that sold he decided to pull the 8 Series out and give it a revamp, which resulted in the car you see here.

    “My first port of call was to speak to the style/modifying guru and one of my closest mates John Peden, of Peden Conceptz,” says Blaine. “First job was to address the stance. We decided hydraulics was the only option due to the severe lack of aftermarket parts available and the fact that it could cope with the sheer weight of the car and still retain handling and driving performance. We thought air might compromise the ride of the car and leave it a little soft.” Considering that everyone seems to opt for air, it’s nice to see someone doing something a little different and going down the juice route. Blaine seems very pleased with the end result and, as it offers the same adjustability as air, it lets him dump the car to spectacular effect.

    Having sorted his suspension he turned his attention to the wheels. The 8 Series looks best on deep-dish wheels, as demonstrated by the Style 5s that could be had with it when the car was new. The threepiece stepped-lip Eta Beta Krone 18s that Blaine was gently steered towards by Dave at German Rims looks absolutely awesome in situ. The mesh design is the perfect choice and the polished lips and deliciously deep dishes are the icing on the cake with the massive arches on the E31 meaning it can comfortably tuck 11.5s at the back.

    Fitting the Krones, however, presented Blaine with a new problem. “It left us with no option but to revise the colour scheme which, again with some subtle direction from John, meant we ended up going for period-correct Ferrari Rosso Corsa red. I decided that since John was doing all the ‘easy’ work the least I could do was to strip and prep the car for him. This was the first time I ever took a car apart to this extent and it led to many late nights locked away in the garage with my old vinyl records playing and a glass or two of whiskey in hand as I worked.” The Ferrari red is a striking colour and works really well on the 8 Series, especially with the subtle exterior modifications that Blaine has carried out, such as the tinted front lights, the dechromed front grille and monochrome badges. “Styling-wise I didn’t have to do much mainly as the M Tech kit is almost perfect in every way for the car,” he says. And he’s not wrong.

    When the car had been stripped prior to painting Blaine decided that it was a good idea to go to town on the interior, too. “I went ahead and took the whole interior apart to create a more unique look to complement the exterior. I sourced a full black interior from Will at Will’s Wheels; I then changed the full dash and doorcards from grey to black and the seats and door inserts were a combination of my old seats and the new black seats to form what you see now.” The two-tone interior looks great and is a fantastic choice to go with the red paint, while the lighter sections break up the black perfectly.

    Blaine also fitted a brand-new E36 M3 steering wheel with M stitching and perforated leather and upgraded all of the dash lighting as the old optic tubes had left a lot of the gauges dull and unevenly lit. This required the installation of LEDs and he also coloured his dial needles in red like you’d fine on the period M models. He’s also added a fancy flip-out screen head unit while the dash panel beneath the steering wheel has the two switches for the hydraulic suspension, neatly and discreetly mounted and within easy reach at the same time.

    While having a clean engine bay is enough for most of us, Blaine has gone the extra mile here as well. The rocker covers and engine cover have been colour-coded to match the exterior, which makes the engine bay look pretty fantastic. Blaine has also fitted a K&N air filter for improved breathing and an LPG kit, which makes the V8 running costs a little more bearable, although he admits he doesn’t use the kit all that often. A glance at the back reveals the seriously beefy quad exhaust tips of the full custom stainless steel exhaust and what you can’t see is the shorter final drive that he’s fitted from an E38 750i to improve acceleration and make the car feel that bit sportier.

    In the space of eight months Blaine has built himself an absolutely spectacular car and judging by the reaction he’s had at shows and online, it’s a bit of a head-turner and a crowd-pleaser. “My favourite mod has to be the flawless paintwork by John. The colour just grabs your attention and coupled with the deep burble from the exhaust means you always receive attention no matter where you go,” he grins. “The first show I took the car to was Level Up. I was invited along by the guys at I Love Bass and every time I looked there was a crowd of people surrounding the car and photographers trying to get it from every angle!”

    This 840 is so bright, so clean, so awesome that you can’t help but stop and stare and maybe rub yourself all over it. Maybe. Is the 8 Series suddenly going to become the darling of the modified scene? Well, if you’re tempted and you’re looking for inspiration, look no further.

    TECHNICAL DATA FILE #BMW-E31 840Ci on hydraulics / #BMW-840Ci / #BMW-840Ci-E31 / #1999

    ENGINE & TRANSMISSION 4.4-litre #V8 #M62B44 / #M62 , #K&N air filter, custom stainless steel exhaust, colour-coded rocker and engine covers, #LPG kit, standard five-speed #Steptronic / #ZF5HP / #ZF5HP24 gearbox, shorter E38 750i final drive.

    CHASSIS 9.5x18” (front) and 11.5x18” (rear) #Eta-Beta-Krone three-piece wheels with 235/40 (front) and 265/35 (rear) Hankook K120 tyres, custom hydraulic suspension setup, #Brembo callipers, discs and pads with stainless hoses (front and rear).

    EXTERIOR Full respray in Ferrari Rosso Corsa red, tinted front lights, additional lights in the #FTP units, dechromed front grilles, colour-coded badges.

    INTERIOR New M Tech steering wheel with M stitching, custom grey/black leather seats, new black dash and doorcards, upgraded led interior and gauge lighting.

    THANKS Special thanks goes to John Peden at Peden Conceptz, without his wisdom and guidance none of this would have been possible, Will’s Wheels, Canavan’s Auto Centre, Allister at AGS Gas, Dave at German Rims, the guys at Autocare Lurgan for keeping it in perfect condition for me.

    “Styling-wise I didn’t have to do much mainly as the #M-Tech kit is almost perfect in every way for the car”
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    2015 #BMW-X5-xDrive40e-F15 / #BMW-F15 / #BMW-X5-F15

    BMW is now transferring its hybrid technology from the i cars into the regular range. The first to go ‘plug-in’ is the X5 xDrive40e – does it make a valid anti-diesel case? Words: Matt Robinson. Photography: BMW.

    If the future-shock i8 could speak, we reckon it might be smugly quoting Darth Vader: “Now the circle is complete. When I left you, I was but the learner; now I am the master.” And who would it be addressing in such haughty tones? Why, BMW itself, of course. Because, following the stunning success of the fledgling i brand launched just four years ago, the tricks BMW has learned regarding plugin hybrid technology are filtering back into the ‘core’ brand – and the first series production model to benefit is the X5.

    There’s no surprises there; since it was launched in 1999, an incredible 1.5 million X5s have been built at Spartanburg in the US. So as a hugely successful model in its own right, it’s the sensible choice for Munich to electrify first. BMW calls this ‘when xDrive meets eDrive’.

    The X5 xDrive40e, to give it the proper nomenclature that fits in with the rest of BMW’s badging, is a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, or PHEV. The format is fairly simple – up front is the familiar 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol four, here making 245hp and 258lb ft of torque, in the middle is an eightspeed automatic gearbox and drive to all four corners, and underneath the boot floor is the eDrive lithiumion battery pack. The synchronous electric motor itself, rated at 113hp and 184lb, is sequestered away in casing of the automatic transmission.

    Next year, the xDrive40e will be followed by a 340e and a 740e, both of which will use the same drivetrain in differing states of tune and then more ‘regular’ BMWs are likely to follow suit. Talking of power, the X5 PHEV is another of those hybrids where the peak system output figures are not the sum of their parts. At most, the xDrive40e delivers 313hp and 332lb ft of torque; the first figure is comparable with an xDrive40d but the latter is down 133lb ft on the diesel’s 465lb ft maximum.

    Nevertheless, some of the numbers connected to the X5 PHEV make for mind-boggling reading. It weighs the best part of 2.3 tonnes but can apparently return up to 85.6mpg combined economy while emitting just 77g/km CO². And yet despite being ‘only’ a four-cylinder vehicle, it will hit 62mph from rest in 6.8 seconds. Top speed is an electronically limited 130mph, in Auto eDrive mode.

    Ah yes, the ‘modes’. Like every X5, the PHEV still has the Driving Experience Control switch to change the car through Sport, Comfort and Eco Pro settings. But just aft of that is a new button, labelled ‘eDrive’. Here, there are another three options: Auto eDrive, in which the car shuffles power between the various hybrid sources according to driving demands; Max eDrive, which keeps the X5 electric-only (unless there’s no battery power left or you depress the throttle into kick-down); and Save, which either maintains the battery at or juices it up to 50 per cent charge by using the petrol engine and brake recuperation. Set the sat nav and the X5 will even work out whether it’s in a built-up area or not, switching between electrified modes autonomously. Handily, you can over-ride that at any time by pressing the eDrive button.

    All of the on-board technology works like an absolute dream, naturally. With a brimmed battery and Max eDrive selected, step-off acceleration is silent and suitably brisk. The electric motor, ZF auto and xDrive traction all shift the bulky X5 without any drama at all. You can go up to 19 miles at speeds up to 75mph without ever once troubling the petrol motor, which will be more than enough for suburban commuters, and it’ll take around three hours to replenish the battery via a 230-volt mains socket or optional BMW i-Wallbox.

    But in Auto eDrive, the way the X5 switches the petrol on and off as required is seriously spooky. There’s no shudder as it kicks into action, and the only way you’ll tell it has cut off is watching the rev counter suddenly die away while it coasts. Silky smooth doesn’t even cover it – the drivetrain is pure liquid and much quieter than any BMW diesel. The handling is fine, the extra bulk of the #eDrive kit not ruining the X5’s poise, while refinement levels are generally high. The engine only gets noisy at about 4500rpm and tyre noise is marked, but the xDrive40e cruises serenely.

    What a shame, then, that the ride is questionable. On the typically excellent German roads around Munich, too often the secondary ride was weirdly busy. There were also a few occasions where the car rose up on tiptoes, as if the dampers were struggling to control the body. Odd, because self-levelling rear air suspension is standard fit on the X5 PHEV. The SUV was never out-and-out uncomfortable, but we’ll need to reserve final judgement on the ride until we’ve driven it in the UK.

    There are very few indicators that differentiate the xDrive40e. Discreet ‘eDrive’ boot badging and the door-mounted model inscription aside, there’s the charging point on the front nearside wing and trapezoidal tailpipes to clock. Inside, it’s the eDrive button, blue illumination in the dashboard and some extra electric-related screens in the iDrive. It’s otherwise as luxurious and pleasing on the eye in there as any other X5 – albeit the battery under the boot floor means no seven-seat option. Cargo capacity stands at 500 to 1720 litres, though, so there is a benefit to that.

    The biggest problem for the X5 xDrive40e is the NEDC (New European Driving Cyclefuel) consumption test. A quirk of its setup means that BMW is forced to quote those stratospheric eco-stats, when officials on hand at the launch freely admitted that only a handful of owners could ever hope to achieve anything like those levels. The minute you rely on the petrol engine, the #BMW-X5 dips to much more real-world figures; we saw around 35mpg on a mixed Autobahn/country roads run and that’s not a number that’s going to get buyers flocking to showrooms. Prices are yet to be confirmed ahead of its November on-sale date but BMW says it will be ‘broadly comparable’ to the xDrive40d. Which actually means ‘in the £51,000 ballpark’. It can be fitted with all the options you would find on a normal X5, bar those rear seats, and will be backed up by the 360 Electric customer support package as found with the i3 and i8.

    Diesel is currently being demonised as the dark side of the force and plug-in hybrids such as this X5 get more impressive by the day. But the firm ride, lack of a seven-seat option and less-than-spectacular realworld economy figures mean we’re not 100 per cent convinced by the xDrive40e, certainly not when compared to the brilliance of the 40d. You can be sure, though, that future #BMW hybrids will be the masters of diesel. Darth i8 will be pleased.

    TECH DATA #BMW-X5-xDrive40e #2015

    DRIVETRAIN: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol with synchronous electric motor, eight-speed #Steptronic automatic, four-wheel drive.
    MAX POWER: 245hp at 5000-6500rpm (petrol), 113hp at 3170rpm (electric motor)
    MAX TORQUE: 258lb ft at 1250-4800rpm (petrol), 184lb ft @ 0rpm (electric motor)
    0-62MPH: 6.8 seconds
    TOP SPEED: 130mph (limited)
    ECONOMY: 85.6mpg
    CO2 EMISSIONS: 77g/km
    PRICE: Circa £51,000

    The #PHEV X5’s cockpit is reassuringly familiar with just the eDrive button showing the car’s eco credentials. iDrive screen can show the car’s different drive modes demonstrating when it’s charging or how much eDrive you’ve used.
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